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Old 11-26-2004, 01:38 AM   #1
Tsuroerusu
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I need a little help for a school project...


Hey Guys!
For my school project this year I've chosen to write about the philosophy behind the GNU GPL. And the general idea of "sharing with your friends".

In order to write something really outstanding I need other people's opinions and my own, I'd like to ask you guys a few questions:


Is it ethically right to share with others even if you exceed the limits of the law?

Is it always up to the law to decide if it's right or wrong to help your friends?

Where is the line of what's wrong or right, drawn.


If some of my spelling sounds a bit silly please ignore it :P

I've tryed to translate my questions (I recently posted on a danish IT forum, but I got no answer at all) as good as I could.

Last edited by Tsuroerusu; 11-26-2004 at 02:08 AM.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 01:42 AM   #2
vharishankar
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First of all welcome to LQ

But this question needs to be posted in the "General" forum because it's not an introduction...

As for the philosophy of GNU/GPL, though I cannot answer competently, there are other experts on this forum in that and so you needn't worry. You'll get your answers.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 02:07 AM   #3
Tsuroerusu
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Quote:
Originally posted by Harishankar
First of all welcome to LQ

But this question needs to be posted in the "General" forum because it's not an introduction...

As for the philosophy of GNU/GPL, though I cannot answer competently, there are other experts on this forum in that and so you needn't worry. You'll get your answers.
Darn, posted the wrong place, seriously I thought I did post it in the general forum, could some please move it. I don't need any special answers, just your opinion on things.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 02:02 PM   #4
Mara
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Moved to General.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 02:53 PM   #5
Tsuroerusu
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Originally posted by Mara
Moved to General.
Thanks alot man, I guess I was too busy reading and posting at the same time so I got the topic posted in the wrong forum, it was a dum mistake.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 03:45 PM   #6
frob23
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Re: I need a little help for a school project...

Is it ethically right to share with others even if you exceed the limits of the law?

No. There are very rare cases where exceeding the limits of the law is ethical but in the area we are talking about this is not the case.

Is it always up to the law to decide if it's right or wrong to help your friends?

Of course not. But the law does decide exactly how you can help your friends. It isn't against the law to give a friend two grand to help them pay their bills. It is against the law to steal a car to get the two grand to give it to your friend.

Where is the line of what's wrong or right, drawn.

The line is drawn when you cross the lines of good conduct. If you would not want something done to you, then you should not do it to others. There is no moral ambiguity that comes from the GPL.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 04:04 PM   #7
jailbait
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"Is it ethically right to share with others even if you exceed the limits of the law?

Is it always up to the law to decide if it's right or wrong to help your friends?

Where is the line of what's wrong or right, drawn."

Morality and legality are two different things. Where they conflict you should follow morality, not legality. As an example, I grew up in Virginia, U.S.A. during a time when racial segregation was required by Virginia law. Martin Luther King taught me that I had a moral obligation to break the segregation laws.

But I agree with frob23 that there is no conflict between the GNU GPL and either morality or legality so people are not put into an either/or situation when using the GPL..

-------------------------
Steve Stites

Last edited by jailbait; 11-26-2004 at 04:11 PM.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 05:20 PM   #8
Tsuroerusu
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It's not directly the GPL I'm writing about, I'm trying to go into the philosophies behind I'm trying to dive deep into to see if some people should feel guilt if they give a pirated version of some software (I AM IN NO WAY ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO DO PIRACY, LET THAT BE SAID!)

Here's a little addon:
Let's say that I have a friend who's got leukaemia, and he's at the hospital. This disease is very deadly, you almost can prevent it from making people sad because the chance of survival is slim if the disease is not found in time. Let's say my friend really wanted to see a new moviem which has just been released in the theatres, but he can't because of his disease, in this situation is it wrong for me to illegally (I believe it would only be illegal by law not on the ethical side) download the movie he really wanted to see, so that he and I, together, can watch the movie on my laptop?

!! Again, let me point out, I'm NOT encouraging anyone to do piracy !!

Personally I don't believe that trying to help a friend, that might be dying, to get the best out of the life he might have left, is piracy. To each his own opinion, I'd like to hear you guys' opinions on this.

Last edited by Tsuroerusu; 11-26-2004 at 05:24 PM.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 06:03 PM   #9
benjithegreat98
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It would be piracy. You could get prosecuted for it.... If it was proven that you were doing what you said then I seriously doubt that anybody would go after you. That would be almost as bad as suing a church. But you never know. Entities such as the MPAA or RIAA don't seem to mind going after anybody as they have shown in the past. They are just entities that doesn't really sell anything. They are a front to the actual businesses (like Sony, for example) so they can do these things without sullying their name. When somebody says RIAA you associate them with bad. When someone says Asylum Records then you think of the artists under that label. But I digress......

Is it moral? Well, I don't see anything wrong w/ the scenario you laid down. But I also won't say I haven't downloaded a few movies in my time. I don't think that I acted in a moral fashion when I did this. Morals are in the eye of the beholder. Some see abortion at any stage to be highly immoral. Some would disagree. Some say that owning a gun to protect you and yours is highly moral and some would think that you are immoral for having a gun in the same house as your kids. There are many other examples not involving piracy or copyright infringement. Some could argue that at any point you you disobey the law of your land then you have committed an immoral act.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 06:16 PM   #10
jailbait
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Your leukaemia patient example is silly.

I think that piracy is stealing. It is both immoral and illegal. But current technology makes the present laws about stealing music and movies unenforcable. The situation is analogous to the era when the United States outlawed alcohol. That law was routinely ignored by the majority of the population. In the larger American cities liquor distribution came under the control of the mafia with all of the problems that a flourishing mafia introduces into society. The solution to the illegal alcohol problem was to repeal the prohibition on alcohol and to pass a more reasonable set of liquor laws.

The music and movie anti piracy laws have not generated mafia type problems, yet. They have generated widespread disregard for the anti piracy laws. The American government has given up trying to enforce the laws if in fact they ever tried. The government has turned enforcement of the anti piracy laws over to a vigilante group called the RIAA which tramples all over individual rights in trying to prosecute people for stealing music and movies. The American court system is slowly reining in the RIAA's illegal activities. Whenever the RIAA is reduced to acting within the American Constitution they will be unable to make any dent in the illegal copying. I don't think that the RIAA is making much of a dent even while acting unconstitutionly.

So the answer to the problem is that the entertainment industry must come up with a distribution system which will work with current technology. Then the laws need to be changed to something reasonable to reflect the distribution/technology combination. So far the RIAA has only come up with the idea of making the copying technology illegal to own for anybody who is not in the entertainment business. That RIAA idea is a non starter.

---------------------------------
Steve Stites

Last edited by jailbait; 11-26-2004 at 06:20 PM.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 06:56 PM   #11
floppywhopper
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you need to clarify for us exactly what it is you are writing about !

You started off talking about the GNU GPL but then shifted to Piracy. Sharing ideas under the GNU GPL and Piracy are two separate issues. The GNU GPL allows for free creation and modification of ideas while Piracy is simply stealing. The GNU GPL protects people and their ideas with the law while piracy is simply breaking the law.

It would seem to me that to compare / contrast the GNU GPL with piracy is only going to confuse people who will read or listen to your project assignment, and you would then need to be very careful in your presentation.

My advice : talk about one or the other but not both !

floppy
 
Old 11-26-2004, 08:22 PM   #12
Tsuroerusu
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Quote:
Originally posted by floppywhopper
you need to clarify for us exactly what it is you are writing about !

You started off talking about the GNU GPL but then shifted to Piracy. Sharing ideas under the GNU GPL and Piracy are two separate issues. The GNU GPL allows for free creation and modification of ideas while Piracy is simply stealing. The GNU GPL protects people and their ideas with the law while piracy is simply breaking the law.

It would seem to me that to compare / contrast the GNU GPL with piracy is only going to confuse people who will read or listen to your project assignment, and you would then need to be very careful in your presentation.

My advice : talk about one or the other but not both !

floppy
I said I was writing about the philosophies of/behind the GPL, not the GPL itself, and I don't compare the GPL to piracy, I'm just trying to figure out in which cases you should follow the law or your heart, and were fairness counts more than legality (I know it seems like a sentence from a movie, but I'm pretty orginal).

Quote:
Originally posted by jailbait
Your leukaemia patient example is silly.
Well, it's hard to describe something without setting up scenarios or something else than kind of describes what you're talking about. In my country you hear about cancer everyday so I just made up a random example to attempt to describe what I mean.

Last edited by Tsuroerusu; 11-26-2004 at 08:27 PM.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 08:29 PM   #13
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I'm a philosophy teacher, so I might be able to help you with the basics.

1. You need to have a single well-defined thesis that can be adequately covered in the space that you are allowed. By the looks of your post, I'd say you've got at least three things going. Pick one of those things and make it as specific as possible.

2. You thesis statement should have the following form (roughly): In this essay I will argue _____________________. And, whatever is filled in the blank should be a single topic that satisfies my first condiditon. A usefull tip: If someone were to ask you what you were arguing for, you should be able to answer in 1 simple sentence. For example: Q: "What are you writing on?" A: "I'm arguing that Open Source Software has actually proven to be more secure than closed source software."

3. Be aware of what the audience is going to be, i.e., is this a philosophy class or a buisiness class? If it is a philosophy class your first sentence sounds like a good topic. You could show how GPLed software helps to preserve rights, freedoms, etc--but that is a tough topic. Where do these rights come from? Simply in virture of the fact that I'm a human, I deserve 'free' software? A good topic for a business class might be: "How we can make money on an open source model".

4. What has ethics got to do with all this? Well, quite a lot actually, but it gets complicated very quickly. What is the status of Intellectual Property? Is it like physical property? I can keep you out of my car, so can I keep you from reading my source code? If it is not like that, then how is it different? What rights to you get by owning something? I own my shirt, and because of that I get the right to keep you from taking it. Could I let you borrow my shirt? Sure, but notice that this is different from sharing music over the net. To quote the old addage, "To copy a loaf of bread, you need a pound of flour." Copying (sorry, 'sharing') music requires almost no energy and nearly no resources. Is this relevant? Wouldn't it be strange if a chemist discovered a way to cure cancer, but wouldn't tell anyone how to do it? Would he be acting immorally? He owns the formula right? Somehow the old hacker manifesto comes into play here: "The world is full of lots of interesting problems, and we shouldn't have to solve the same problems twice."

5. Recently I've been thinking a lot about the role of art in a community. Would it be wrong to charge lots of money to see some of the most significant pieces of art in human history? I think yes, it should be (nearly) free to see things like David. Well, aren't movies and some pieces of music just as important for our society? You betcha'. It would be immoral to keep David from the poor, and by the same token it is immoral to keep certian pieces of music or modern movies from those who simply can't afford it. So, what kind of business model is required to bring these industries in line with morality? I don't know, but it is certainly an interesting puzzle.

I reccomend the following book: http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opens.../book/toc.html

You should also check out:
http://www.stallman.org/ RMS thinks it is all about ethics.
http://www.catb.org/~esr/ Eric S. Raymond has many great articles. If you haven't read The The Cathedral and the Bazaar you should.

Have you seen the movie Revolution OS? Might want to watch it.
 
Old 11-26-2004, 08:36 PM   #14
Tsuroerusu
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To all who's replied until now, I thank each of you for your opinions, you've helped me a lot!
 
Old 11-27-2004, 03:09 AM   #15
Zuggy
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Is it ethically right to share with others even if you exceed the limits of the law?

I'm going to split this into 2 answers.

1st. It is Ethically right to share with others? Yes. That's how science has progressed. Before the advant of Communication, many scientific finds were rediscovered many times wasting time. But after the invention of Global communication science has progressed extremely fast. A good example is that in 100 years we've gone from flying 6 feet to the moon and space travel being a mostly routine thing.

2nd. ignore the 1st answer if it breaks the law. This is where Linux, open source programs the GNU/GPL shine. Windows can't be shared with friends but Linux can.

Is it always up to the law to decide if it's right or wrong to help your friends?

This question is kind of vague because help comes in many shapes and forms, both legal and illegal. In the computing world most help that would fall under this question is of the "my friend lost his (insert required software here) disk and I have a copy, can he use mine?" catagory. This is a bit of a sticky subject although if the above is the case I'm going to have to say it's ok.

The reason I say that is because the last time I checked the "fair use act" (in the US) allowed things like copying movies, games, music, etc. for personal back-up use only. I would say that this kind of situation would be the same except your providing a back-up for the missing software. I don't know about other countries and if they have similar fair use laws or not.

I will note that my knowledge of the law doesn't extend much further then the Law & Order TV shows so don't take my word on the above. Find a lawyer that knows what their talking about.

Where is the line of what's wrong or right, drawn.

More moral questions. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, non-religion, what's right or wrong, you usually have to turn to your countries court system. They enforce the law and what is established in the judicial system is what goes.

However, most of us have some sort of sense of right and wrong and we can use our own judgement. An example is that console piracy is so high in South America that console makers won't sell games and equipment because there is no profit in it and the courts won't prosecute. Does this make it right? No it doesn't.

Once again the GNU/GPL and all software that use it shine. You don't have to worry about such problems because the people that develop the software are saying take it and do whatever you d@mn well please with it.
 
  


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